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I Forge Iron

First pair of nails

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I had not even punched through a piece of steel before, so I decided to give it a shot after looking through my book on Practical Blacksmithing Projects and read the section on nails.

I figured why not try to make a nail, ugly as mine may be. I made a rough header out of a flat piece of stock by punching through just enough to break the other side, then I punched from the other side. The header is relatively flat, but I may change it at a later date. I probably will add a bulge to help shape the heads.

I only made 2 nails, but I made them two different ways. The first one with the larger head, I cut to a size I thought would be right, tapered it first and left enough for the head. The second one I just worked the end of a 1/4" square rod and then cut it to length. The second one was thinner & I did not leave enough for a head on there and ended up hammering it right through the header from one side. (The hole is a little large...)

The 1st one I made a little too tapered I think and ended up splitting it. Is there a way to avoid that? They came out looking more like spikes but they drove into the wood good and are now holding some tools in the shop.


I'm not sure how big the market is for handmade nails, but I saw that you can sell a handmade nail for a buck a piece(and that's a small one).

I would love to try and make a replica of the Williamsburg style nail maker setup, that i've seen posted in other threads.

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Thanks Frosty, I definitely was working the 1st one cold at one point. I shall avoid that in the future.

I was also wondering if the nails need to be quenched, right out the header, or is quenching dependent on the use of said nail? I think I quenched the 2nd but not the first. If I get decent at it and start selling some nails, what is the safe route for the quench issue?

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Unless you're making something like concrete nails there's no reason to use high carbon steel so quenching doesn't matter.

The safe route is use mild steel and quench them to keep from having hot bits of steel laying around where you or someone else may touch it.

Mild is pretty forgiving but will only take a little bit of hammering cold, especially in a thin section. What you can do though is heat to red and give it a few smacks then heat to red again. I do this sometimes when refining a thin point that is likely to melt on me if I try taking a "proper" heat on it.

With practice you will be able to hear it when the steel is work hardening and needs another heat. You'll also feel it in your holding hand long before your hammer hand.

Use all your senses and listen to the steel, it'll tell you what it needs, you just have to learn it's language.


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Nice looking nails! For a nice nail header, use a RR spike, good steel and they stand up to the use. There is a post from a couple of days ago "Look to the Past" IIRC. In the post is a link to a 1920's film of a smith making nails. He is not quenching them, has a neat set up and making a bunch of them really fast! Most of the nails that we make and sale a demos of just 'trinket' nails for the visitor, although they will work for the intended job. You will need to make a bunch of nails, in a short period of time to make it a $$ making venture. And, if you think of it, how many folks do you know will buy a pound of nails at $1.00 each?!? They are good items at demos tho!! and you can get that $1.00 a piece for them.

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